ACA

Affordable Care Act; Obamacare

What’s Your Classification?

Another update from the Jungle…..

At this time of year, as we all think about income taxes and payroll withholding, the perennial issue arises. When is a worker an employee (IRS Form W-2) and when is a worker an independent contractor (IRS Form 1099)?

For decades the answer was straightforward: look at “control”. When a company controls what, when, where and how a worker performs assigned tasks, the worker is an employee. By contrast, independent contractors are given a task and a deadline, and they control how, where, and when they complete the task.

Then life got complicated. In 2015 the Dept. of Labor (DOL) proposed raising the salary level of the overtime rule to $913 per week. Employees with weekly wages below that amount would be entitled to overtime pay if they worked more than 40 hours in a work week. It meant that more employees would be eligible for overtime pay.

At the same time, the DOL adopted the “economic reality” test. If the economic reality was that a worker was financially dependent on the company, then the worker was a W-2 employee. The practical effect of the test was to eliminate the classification of “independent contractor”.

To understand why the DOL took these actions, it helps to understand the philosophical approach of regulatory authorities. Regulatory authorities, including the IRS and DOL, recognize that someone will always find a way to game the system. (Remember the tax shelters that allowed some people to claim they had no taxable income?) So the regulators try to deter gaming by creating tediously detailed regulations that everyone complains are strangling businesses and the economy. (Of course, we eventually learn how to game new rules and complain when they change again.)

In 2015, the DOL wanted to deter perceived abuse of the “exempt” status in the overtime rule, and it wanted to ensure that more individuals would be covered by an employer’s group health plan as contemplated by the Affordable Care Act. To meet these objectives, the DOL proposed raising the salary limit and adopted the “economic reality” test.

The economic reality test was withdrawn, and we’re back where we started with the “control” test. The proposed overtime rule was also withdrawn, and the DOL is considering raising the salary limit but by a lesser amount.

However, it’s still critical to properly classify workers because the consequences of getting it wrong can be financially catastrophic. DOL civil penalties start at over $1,000 per employee per violation. The IRS can assess civil penalties and require a company to restate years of tax filings. Misclassified workers can sue for lost wages and benefits. It’s a triple whammy that few companies could financially survive.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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It’s Back Again!

Another update from the Jungle….

unnamed (11)Michelle owns a small business of 35 employees that is slowly expanding. She’s ignored the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ever since she realized that her company was too small to be subject to the employer penalty. Besides, she has other concerns, such as finding new markets for her company so that it can continue to grow.

However, her employees like having benefits, including health coverage. Last year, Michelle encouraged her employees to obtain individual health policies because she couldn’t afford a group health plan. Now the issue has arisen again as the annual open enrollment period for the Exchange approaches on November 1st.

Michelle would like to offer a group health plan because she thinks it would be a nice perk for employees. But she’s heard other small business owners complain about increased premium costs.
image038She’s afraid she can’t afford a group plan this year either.

She does a quick survey of her employees. She learns that 15 of them have coverage through their spouses. One employee is an early retiree covered under a former employer’s plan. Another employee is eligible for Medicare. Part-time workers wouldn’t be eligible for coverage in an employer’s group health plan under the ACA rules.

That leaves a grand total of 12 employees who are interested in a group health plan. Of the 12 employees, several could qualify for a subsidy from the Exchange based on their income and family size.

What should Michelle do next?

  1. She can ignore the issue completely since her company is not subject to the employer penalty.
  2. She can ask her insurance agent to give her information on a group health plan option for the 12 employees who are interested in coverage.
  3. She can arrange for an insurance agent to come to her work place to help employees choose individual health policies, through the Exchange or outside the Exchange.

There are no easy solutions for small employers regarding health coverage. Small employers may find that not offering a group health plan actually helps their lower income employees to qualify for a subsidy through the Exchange. On the other hand, any employer offering a group health plan may use a business tax deduction to offset part of the cost of the plan. An experienced insurance agent or producer can help small employers assess their options.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Boxed in by Box 12 on the W-2

Another update from the HR jungle….
image013Maryann handles payroll questions for her employer. She and her coworkers have been scrambling for a couple of years to ensure they comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last year was all about finding a software program that would allow the company to track the hours of its temporary employees.

This year, Maryann is looking at box 12 on the W-2. That’s the box where employers need to plug in the cost of the medical plan for the employee. Filling in this information is mandatory only for employers who filed at least 250 W-2’s in the previous tax year, meaning in 2013. Maryann’s company filed 170 W-2’s in 2013, so they aren’t required to complete box 12 for the 2014 tax year.

She knows that this January her company will issue 200 W-2’s covering the 2014 tax year. She thinks that number will rise to 250 during 2015. Maryann wants to get a head start on figuring out box 12 after some of the past fiascos in trying to comply with the ACA.

What should Maryann consider?

  1. Maryann knows that the “cost” or “value” of health coverage refers to the premium paid for medical coverage in the health plan, known as “major medical”. She needs to verify what other costs, such as FSA contributions and dental and vision premiums, may need to be included.
  2. Maryann can consult her company’s CPA firm for assistance on completing box 12.
  3. Maryann can do some research in the ACA section of the IRS website during her spare time.

Need help with HR issues? Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff when the policies are implemented.

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Time & Money

Another update from the HR jungle….

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Back in December, Sue, the HR director, decided she needed to review the employee handbook to ensure that all the information is still accurate. Now that her rum hangover from her cruise is gone, she’s focusing on this project.

Sue revised individual sections of the employee handbook over the past two years as the laws changed. For example, she changed the definition of employees eligible for health insurance. Under the old criteria, employees had to work at least 32 hours a week to be eligible. But under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employees who average 30 hours per week are eligible for health coverage.

Of course, this piecemeal approach means that she may have missed something. She also knows that her company added employees since the handbook was last updated and she thinks that the increased number of employees means that additional employment laws now apply to the company. As she surveys the scope of the project, Sue worries about how she’ll manage to review and update the handbook while still keeping up with her regular duties.

What are Sue’s options?

  1. She can research federal and state government websites to collect information about employment laws and regulations that apply to employers with the number of employees that her company has.
  2. She can attend a seminar for HR professionals to learn about recent changes to federal and state employment laws, although the update won’t include existing laws that haven’t been revised and that may apply to her company.
  3. She can convince her employer that it is a better use of her time and their money to outsource this project to a subject matter expert.

Need help with HR issues? Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff when the policies are implemented.

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Before the R&R…

Another update from the HR jungle….
image021Sue is the HR director for her company and last week she was working on her year-end checklist. Sue is trying to knock out all the items on her checklist before she checks out for a two week cruise in the Caribbean. Last week’s checklist covered last minute items related to the Affordable Care Act.

This week’s checklist is a general review of her HR domain. It’s good to be in charge, even if she has no minions to obey her every whim. First, she talks with the payroll service to ensure that they have all the information they will need to issue W-2’s in January 2105. This task went on her checklist after a “miscommunication” earlier in the year meant a new hire didn’t get paid on time. Now Sue obsessively re-checks everything.

Sue’s decided to postpone her second checklist item until after her vacation because it will be tedious and time consuming. She needs to review the employee handbook to ensure that all the information is still accurate. She revised a few sections of the handbook over the past two years as the growing workforce meant additional employment laws applied to her company. Now it’s time to do a general cleanup. Sue knows she needs some R&R (rum and more rum) before tackling this task.

Sue’s final checklist item is to complete a status review of the HR department when she returns to the office in January. Now she just needs to deal with any last minute crises before leaving for her well-deserved date with rum and the sea.

Do you have a year-end checklist to keep your HR duties on track? We can’t promise you a Caribbean cruise with (lots of) alcohol, but we’ve love to hear from you.

 

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Are you ready for 2015?

Another update from the HR jungle…

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Sue is the human resources director for her company (because she’s the only HR department employee). She is frantically working her way through her year-end checklist so that she can take a two week, rum-infused holiday cruise in late December. Today she’s working on checklist items related to the group health plan.

First on her checklist is a note to update the on-line information about the company’s group health plan to show the new out-of-pocket limits for 2015. Her company has a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA). In 2015, HSA contributions are limited to $3,350 for individuals and $6,650 for families. The maximum out-of-pocket limits are $6,450 for individuals and $12,900 for families. If she posts the information on-line, some employees may actually read it rather than calling her with their questions.

Second on her checklist is to confirm that the new ACA-compliant software is properly tracking the hours of employees. Sue was impressed by the software vendor’s ability to customize the software to track her company’s high turnover employees. Sue’s company is not subject to the employer penalty in 2015 because they met the transitional relief for employers with 50 – 99 employees. But Sue still worries about last minute glitches when new software programs are implemented.

Does your ACA-compliance checklist look like Sue’s? Can you think of any items on your checklist that Sue has forgotten?

Sue’s already dreaming about the rum and fruit drinks she’ll be enjoying on her cruise, but she’ll continue working on her checklist items in next week’s column.

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Pay Now or Pay Later.

Another update from the HR jungle….

9098832-a-set-of-tools-for-repairs-vector-illustrationBarb owns a small home repair business with six employees. She pays them wages higher than the industry average so that they won’t defect to larger competitors who can offer more benefits. She’d like to add a group health plan as another incentive to remain loyal to her company.

But, once again, the health insurance quotes Barb received gives her sticker shock. There’s no way she can pay the employer’s portion of the premium for a group health plan. She’s already paying a fortune for her worker compensation premiums.

She knows her employees can’t afford the employee’s portion of the premium on a group health plan. Don Juan Smith’s paycheck is subject to the maximum allowed payroll deductions due to the court-ordered child support he owes to two girlfriends. High Risk Randy’s wages are being garnished for old debts and he’s never paid voluntarily for any employee benefit.

What options are available to Barb?

  1. She can remind her employees that annual open enrollment for the Exchange (a/k/a Marketplace) began on November 15th. They can apply for individual health policies or apply for an individual exemption to the requirement of having health insurance.
  2. She can tell her employees to talk to a health insurance agent about coverage options for the employee or for the employee’s family.

Is your business struggling to understand the Affordable Care Act and how it affects your company and employees? Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can provide an overview of how the ACA affects employers and employees and answer specific questions you may have.

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